Most people don’t consider 6-foot-3-inch, 230 pound college men small, but that’s not the case for Andy Vasquez. The transfer student from Reseda, California is this season’s starting center for the Northern Michigan football team, a big position on the offensive line.
“I felt like it was a big role to play as it was such a big hole to fill. I have to be the best leader I can on the line being in the middle and put my body on the line for this team.”
Vasquez is the lightest starting center in the GLIAC, as he is 37 pounds less than the average of the other 13 starting linemen. Through grit and determination, Vasquez has proven to be a solid part of the offensive line.
“He comes in and has fun every day,” said offensive line coach Rob Boss. “In order to succeed in football you have to enjoy it. He comes in and has fun, but he also puts the hard work in and improves every week.”
Vasquez was named the NMU offensive player of the week for his play against Ashland and combined for play of the week with quarterback Carter Kopach, when the Wildcats beat the Northwood University Timberwolves on the road.
“With being a first year starter, Vasquez has really stepped up,” Kopach said. “He’s very cool and calm in the huddle. Sometimes in practice and games, I can wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I can always count on him to settle things down.”
Vasquez transferred to Northern from Moorpark College, a community college nestled just north of the Santa Monica Mountains. While with the Raiders, Vasquez won a conference championship and a bowl game, but eventually lost in the national semifinals. Despite the success at the junior college level, Vasquez transferred to Northern to further not only his playing career but his education.
“Coach Awrey gave me a call and asked if I signed with anyone yet. Then he told me about Northern. I had never heard of Northern before that night, so I did some research and it looked pretty good. So I came for a visit, I didn’t think too much of it at first, but I went in the dome and met the coaches and fell in love with the place.”
Coming from California, the adjustment off the field was also a challenge, as last winter was the first time he saw snow.
“I didn’t believe anyone when they said it was going to be cold up here,” he said. “I didn’t bring jackets or anything. Now I’m wearing sweaters all the time. You can never get used to the cold.”
The cold is just a part of the geography of the area, which was another thing that threw off the transfer student. He still has to remind himself that Lake Superior is just a lake and not an ocean and that, unlike LA where you can keep driving in civilization for miles, Marquette is the biggest city around. Even the Yooper dialect is a change for him. However the biggest adjustment for Vasquez might be the abundant wildlife.
“It’s a shocking thing to me how I see deer walking by. I was considered calling the police and saying ‘you got some loose deer here, could you put them back in the zoo?’ That’s the only place you see deer in LA.”
But even though Vasquez makes sure the laundry room window is always closed, just in case a moose comes by, the center isn’t scared of his opponents.
“You have to play with no fear, because you never know when your last play will be.”